On Oct. 16, 2007, union sprinkler fitter Frank Barnai was working at a Wal-Mart Store construction site in Joliet, Ill. He tripped over an electrical conduit protruding 6-12 inches from a concrete floor. Barnai was carrying a sprinkler pipe over his shoulder at the time of his fall. Barnai, 54, sustained a re-injury to his back. He had previously undergone lumbar fusion surgery at L4-5. As a result of this incident, Barnai underwent multiple revisions of the prior fusion and eventually required a multi-level spinal fusion from T-9 to S-1. Barnai is unable to return to work and is mostly confined to a wheelchair.
Barnai sued Wal-Mart, the owner, the general contractor, International Contractors Inc. and the company that installed the conduit, Nuline Technologies, for choosing not to inspect the work area for tripping hazards, failing to properly identify the tripping hazard, choosing not to mark the protruding conduit as a hazard and failing to ensure workers were not exposed to hazardous conditions.
The defendants contended that Barnai was contributorily negligent for not watching where he was walking and argued that he was aware of the dangerous conditions because he had walked past the area hundreds of times before he fell.